It was a dark and balmy February night. I stepped outside in only my gum boots and a hoodie. A trench coat was not needed in the imitation spring air. It was odd. Very odd. To be so warm and wonderful on the first of the Love Month in the Buckeye State. For the past five or six years we would be under two inches of the White Death. But not this winter. I'm not one to complain about unseasonably warm winters, even though it makes the stock act a little crazy. Hey, it's all Bush's fault anyway, right?
I had a job to do that night, like any other of my existence. I was the caretaker to some very needy and V.I.P. patrons. Under my hoodie I disguised an innocent looking egg carton to make the exchange with my clients. Liquid gold they give me in exchange for food and shelter. I felt bad for this. I was robbing them blind day after day. It was like taking candy from a baby.
As I walked my guilt weighed me down heaver than the boots on my feet. I tried to find a reason...any reason to make this job easier on myself. "That d@*n Bush! It's all his fault!" I told myself. Amazingly enough, it worked. I was steely enough to do my job by the time I reached Cooptown and walked through the squeaky door of the Kennel Bar. To my relief it was empty. I looked over my shoulder and saw down the alley the gang of Beefy Boys. I've had run ins with them in the past. Six very immature "males" of their species, who thankfully lacked the size and balls to do anything to me or my clients. Still, when they get a little older they may pose more of a problem. I'll deal with that issue when and if I ever get to it. And then, it will all be Bush's fault anyway.
Quickly I sealed the entrance to Cooptown from Kennel Bar and locked up the lounge. Next I walked through Cooptown and counted my clients. The guilt that Bush took away came slamming back to hit me like a ton of bricks as I looked into the women's eyes. So trusting and needy. I tried in vain not to think about the crazed ladies who meet me halfway to Cooptown and desperately follow me back screaming at me to let them back in. They are so desperate, they GIVE me their babies. I am a horrible person.
The usual client count is nineteen, but that night, that unseasonable warm night, I was missing five. "What the crap!?" I thought spinning circles, checking hootches and retracing my steps to the Kennel Bar. "How can there be five missing!" I kicked myself for not bringing my cell phone to call my partner for back up....and the walk back to the office was just too far. I wouldn't have been able to make it. I spun around in another circle. The Beefy Boys were still lurking in the corner chewing that God awful chew and passing that God awful gas. They taunted me. Bush was taunting me. "For the love of God, my five clients have been stolen! I didn't see them on the way in from the office. They are gone!"
I ran through my list of suspects and only one came to mind. That big guy from the slums of Harriett...he had to be the one! He stopped by the office and asked if I sold any of my beloved clients and now he's come and stolen them!!!! How else would FIVE be missing! I imagined what the big guy would say when I confronted him about it. He'd probably say that Bush made him do it.
Right before I was going to leave the bar I heard a snicker from behind me. A Beefy Boy, the one they call Ernie, was chewing that God awful chew and laughing at me. "Are you laughing at me!?" I yelled.
"Hee hee, I know where your chicks are at." He said.
"Oh yeah?" I asked, though an idea was coming to life in my frantic mind.
"Yeah. Pass me over some of that grass and I'll tell ya."
"I can't." I said, already moving and shoving past him through the small alley door and onto Beefy Boy turf. "You know we only make morning exchanges. Besides you boys are on contract and that doesn't include evening pay."
Ernie ran off to join the rest of the Boys in the shadows. But I hardly noticed them. I was too busy feeling relief and anger at my five clients who were loitering around the Beefy Block. Some were cooperative and willingly went back into the bar. A few others fought me. They went kicking and screaming over the fences. I was cussing out loud by the time the ordeal was over. I too decided it was safer to scale the fences than it was going back through the alley and taking my chances with the Beefy Boys.
By the end of the night, I didn't feel so bad for taking the payment. My partner just laughed at me when I told him the story. I think he was just glad it wasn't his night to walk down to Cooptown.
Sometimes I wonder why I do what I do. Sometimes we are forced into circumstances we don't feel comfortable doing, but we have to do them anyway. It's a tough world out there......no thanks to Bush.